What defines the “best anime” of all time?
The most logical answer is based on ratings and reviews from sites like MAL (MyAnimeList).
The problem with that though is: it’s limited to MAL’S audience. And some reviews aren’t what I’d consider “real” reviews.
Then you have anime polls that Japan runs, gathering no more than 10,000-100,000+ votes in total. A small number when you consider the 50-100 millions of fans around the world.
Because of that, there’s no perfect way to settle these subjective debates.
So with that said… Here’s my list of the greatest anime of all time for 2018.
53 Best Anime Of All Time (In No Ranking Order):
Monster does one thing well: express the “inner monster” within all of us.
All it takes is the wrong set of circumstances to trigger someone on a dark path. Awakening an evil we never thought ourselves capable of.
Few anime are this realistic.
2. Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden shines because of its heartfelt, emotional story telling.
You don’t just feel empathy towards the main character, you also feel it for the support characters who show up along the way.
Violet Evergarden mixes beautiful scenes, amazing animation, and powerful stories all into one ball of greatness.
3. Clannad: After Story
Clannad season 1 was good, but it doesn’t even compare to the greatness of season 2.
Like Violet Evergarden, Clannad After Story is filled with pain and sadness. Both of which few anime have been able to portray so perfectly.
Jormungand is the only anime of its kind to portray the lives of arms dealers. The realism of the story telling, experiences, and the lifestyles led by arms dealers is on point.
This anime is a masterpiece for what it does and intended to do.
5. Madoka Magica
Madoka Magica came into the picture and said: “fuck all this cliché magical girl bullshit, it’s time to shake things up”.
That’s what makes Madoka Magica so good. Instead of following the typical route, it broke convention and turned the genre into something dark and disturbing.
6. Black Lagoon
Like Jormungand, Black Lagoon is one of the grittiest anime on the planet.
Each character has a troubled past associated with rape, sexual abuse, drugs, crime, and everything the underworld represents.
Black Lagoon does it best in this department. And the action speaks for itself.
7. Psycho Pass
Psycho Pass explores sci-fi from the perspectives of police officers and the law. And let’s not forget about the technology that’s so ahead of its time in this anime series.
There are few police series as it is in the anime world, and Psycho Pass makes it interesting to watch without the cliches.
Calling Psycho Pass “original” is an understatement. There’s no comparison for what it does.
8. Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online gets bashed over its head too much. In fact that’s how I discovered it. The haters made me curious.
What SAO does best is blend gaming with virtual reality, and making it slightly dark to spice things up.
In terms of gaming and VR, no anime comes close for what SAO represents. And its success is more than deserved.
It’s an anime that’s ahead of its time.
9. Akame Ga Kill
Akame Ga Kill is what happens when citizens in a country rebel against a fraudulent, unethical government and society.
This is what Akame Ga Kill is about, and it makes its point clear through brutality, intense action, and some of the best fight scenes an anime has to offer.
It’s a little unconventional too in the way it handles main characters (and their deaths).
Shiki starts off slow, but ends up becoming something so dark, disturbing and morally challenging, that you won’t know what to think.
It’s this one element that I love most about Shiki. One of the best horrors of all time.
On one hand, Hinamatsuri will make you burst out laughing for its ridiculous comedy.
On the other hand, the anime will bring you close to crying and weeping.
Out of all the anime I’ve watched, so few can manage to express comedy and “sadness” so well without fucking up the other.
That’s what makes Hinamatsuri special for me.
12. Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid
Dragons living alongside humans isn’t creative in of itself. But the way the anime executes this concept and turns it into hilarious comedy, along with “slice of life” elements is interesting.
And it looks good doing it.
One of the few anime to tackle tough concepts like depression and suicide.
For this reason alone, and for how it’s portrayed from start to finish is too emotional to ignore.
I appreciate the unique animation too.
14. Dragon Ball Z
DBZ is a classic. It’s the reason the anime industry even exists on a global scale.
There’s nothing else to say.
Bleach is basically DBZ without the OP characters.
Say what you want about Bleach, but no anime can ever replace it for what it does.
16. Flying Witch
Flying Witch is the simplest, most relaxing series I’ve ever watched.
No clichés, fan service or typical nonsense seen in your everyday anime. And that’s what makes Flying Witch stand out.
It’s the closest thing to “real” television, except it’s animated.
17. My Bride Is A Mermaid
Underrated anime series that doesn’t get much love or recognition.
For its time the comedy (and parody) is some of the most well-done I’ve ever come across.
It’s an original comedy in its own right.
18. Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail has the best adventures an anime could offer. Comparable to shows like DBZ.
Never have I seen so many characters that are memorable and worthwhile at the same time.
It’s basically my favorite Shounen series of the 21st century.
19. The Disastrous Life Of Saiki K
One of the funniest, most creative comedies of recent years. I love it insults typical tropes, without actually stepping into that territory.
20. Re Zero: Starting Life In Another World
Another anime that insults typical tropes, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
And the deep, dark, psychological aspects of Re Zero make it an anime that will make you think.
21. Higurashi: When They Cry
Higurashi is like one big science experiment. It’s almost impossible to know what will happen next, and how things will turn out.
For a horror series, it’s unpredictable, clever, and one of the most thought-provoking.
22. Tanaka Kun Is Always Listless
Simple anime with simple comedy. It’s so simple that it’s funny, and Tanaka Kun is relaxing enough to fall asleep to.
In a good kind of way.
Slice of life that focuses on concepts like self-improvement, growth, mindset and relationships
You can’t compare Barakamon. And for a short series, it has a lot of quality packed into it.
24. My Hero Academia
My Hero Academia is one of the greatest anime of the 21st century. The Shounen genre needed something fresh, and MHA is the answer to that need.
25. Shakugan No Shana
Shakugan No Shana is a large universe filled with Denizens, Flame Haze and humans who are caught in the middle.
It has a nice mix of supernatural elements (without going over the top), decent animation and interesting characters with interesting abilities.
Each season is different, and it’s a classic overall in my eyes.
26. Eureka Seven
A mecha series without no comparison.
Eureka Seven (made by Studio Bones) uses mystery, biblical references, diverse characters and romance to tell its story.
And there’s no Mecha on earth that does it better in this area (not even Darling In The Franxx).
27. Full Metal Panic!
Full Metal Panic takes high school romance, and adds terrorism, action, and realism to the mix.
This is one of those rare anime that gets even better with each season that’s produced.
28. A Silent Voice
A movie about bullying disabled children deserves the top 50+ list without question.
Not just because of its content, but because of how well Kyoto Animation portrayed it.
29. Fate Zero
When it comes to anime with historical elements, Fate Zero dominates. Especially for its insane levels of action, precision and entertainment.
30. School Live
School Live looks cute, but in reality it’s one of the deepest shows on this list. Tackling themes like mental illness, psychosis, hallucination and similar topics.
Like Madoka Magica, the anime tricks you into thinking it’s a fun series until it’s too late to turn back.
31. Fate Apocrypha
Fate Apocrypha is the latest series in the fate universe, and surprisingly I enjoyed it even more than Fate Zero.
32. The Devil Is A Part-Timer
Like the disastrous life of saiki k, this anime is creative in how it handles itself.
The story is just too ridiculous to not be funny. We definitely need a season 2 for The Devil Is A Part Timer!
Thought Provoking anime series, focused on nothing more than:
- Working together to solve puzzles.
- Asking questions.
- And “playing detective”.
On the surface it doesn’t sound world-class, but how its implemented is another story.
34. Dragon Ball Super
I was skeptical in the beginning, but Dragon Ball Super has proven itself once again.
The nostalgia might have worn off from DBZ, but the franchise is still alive and strong in 2018.
35. Kino’s Travels: The Beautiful World
An anime series that does one thing extremely well: tell stories.
Kino travels the world on her motorbike, staying no more than 3 days in each country.
Under the surface this anime is quite deep.
36. Kokoro Connect
Kokoro Connect isn’t classed as a “psychological” series, but it is.
Slice of life and romance aside, this anime will make you think like no other show of its kind.
37. The Royal Tutor
The Royal Tutor goes unnoticed, but for anyone looking for an educational series, this is it.
It’s one of the most refreshing series in the “school” genre, for its unique take on education, comedy, and self-improvement.
38. Nodame Cantabile
Musical anime series with the best comedy, romance, and “Seinen” elements I’ve ever seen.
It’s so unconventional, choosing to punch most clichés right in the face, instead of succumbing to it like similar shows that are average at best.
“I want to be the very best, like no one ever was.” – Pokemon
40. Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
Kenichi takes it upon himself to train in the martial arts, giving him the power to defend himself and reclaim his self-confidence.
In a world where bullying happens everyday, this anime is inspirational. Especially for teenagers.
41. Guardian Of The Sacred Spirit
I love anime with a feeling of “history” attached to it.
Guardian Of The Sacred Spirit is about an abandoned prince and his female bodyguard.
Production I.G outdid themselves again (they made Psycho Pass).
42. Food Wars
What anime do you know that takes food, and adds ecchi without making a fool of itself?
Food Wars dominates in the “food” genre, if that’s even a thing.
You won’t see a more creative, unique Shounen that takes an unconventional route like Food Wars.
It deserves all the success it can get.
43. A Certain Scientific Railgun
Source: Mikoto Misaka
Railgun, similar to Hinamatsuri, focuses on two things simultaneously.
- Slice of life episodes.
The action is sick, and the slice of life episodes are chilled.
And while we’re on the topic: Railgun is a MUCH better anime than Magical Index.
44. D. Gray Man
D. Gray Man has always felt different to me. Most Shounen are just… Shounen.
There are literally 1000’s of Shounen’s because the genre is saturated with bullshit.
D. Gray Man is one of a handful that stands-out without ripping off other good shows of similar quality.
45. Code Geass
Code Geass is my #1 Mecha/action anime series, ever.
The clever plots, the strategic characters, the ruthlessness of Lelouch… There’s too much to name here in terms of why Code Geass is so brilliant.
46. Assassination Classroom
Another fresh series in the “school” genre of anime.
Comparing this to your modern-day school anime is insulting.
47. Samurai Champloo
The one thing I respect most about Samurai Champloo is how it blends Samurai culture with the vibes of Hip Hop.
I can’t think of any anime that does this. And the 3 main characters are so different to each other, that it makes each one of them easy to remember.
Samurai Champloo is an absolute classic.
Kaizaki Arata, a 27-year-old NEET is given another chance to “re-do” his life. Giving him the opportunity to fix his mistakes, and make something of himself.
ReLife is another surprisingly fresh school series that’s so underrated.
49. Elfen Lied
For some – Elfen Lied is too bloody and over the top. But I don’t see that.
Elfen Lied is a cry for help. A sad story with an even sadder ending.
It’s a reflection of how disgusting human beings can be, and how hypocritical our actions are.
50. The Ultimate Otaku Teacher
I love Denpa Kyoushi for one simple reason: life lessons.
It’s similar to Assassination Classroom, ReLife and The Royal Tutor for this.
MAL doesn’t agree, but I don’t give a F. Each to their own.
51. Little Witch Academia
If I ever got the chance to be a “kid” again, this is the anime I’d watch.
- No fan service.
- No “attempted” fan service.
- No perverted BS.
- No Ecchi.
Basically: all the clichés you can find in a similar series doesn’t exist in LWA.
Studio Trigger outdid themselves, and the anime deserves more recognition than it’s gotten so far.
There’s nothing like old school 90’s anime. Slayers walked its own path, and inspired the “strong female” character tropes you see in modern-day shows.
I call it the old school version of Fairy Tail (without the fan service). It’s a good alternative for DBZ fans.
Another old school series I couldn’t help adding to this list.
I don’t talk about it a lot, but it’s still a favorite regardless.
- God Eater.
- Alice & Zouroku.
- Bungou Stray Dogs.
- Kabaneri Of The Iron Fortress.